Chaptet Twenty-Three @
There was no formal meeting time for the Stitchers N’ Bitchers. If a woman wanted a little company and to hear the latest gossip, she’d make her way to the Rusty Springs Store.
The morning after Stormy visited the lodge, Joy Ann came into the store and passed Robert at the register. She gave him a little wave as he counted out change to someone she didn’t recognize and went back to find Gladys Lang knitting a long orange scarf.
Joy Ann maneuvered across the wide-boarded bench seat and sat across from her. “Where’s everyone,” she asked.
“Lillian’s over to Great Falls. Gretchen’s getting ready for company from Iowa. I haven’t seen Stormy for quite some time.”
Gladys, a stout German woman of an intermediate middle age, was one of the most out spoken of the group. The women looked to her for practical advice. She had the biggest garden and the most organized household. Her unfailing disciplined approach to a problem could light the deadened spark in another woman and get her motivated again. In other words, as one of the ladies said about her, “Gladys will tell you straight up. No foolin’ around or trying to be ladylike.”
“Oh, I’m glad it’s just you here this morning,” said Joy Ann. “I have to tell somebody and the best person I know is you.” Gladys put down her knitting needles. Joy Ann warranted her complete attention.
“In this store a few weeks ago, I saw a creepy-looking guy at the counter. I can’t stop thinking about him. I know I should remember him. He’s giving me the jitters.”
“Calm down, Joy. He could have been just passing through. Maybe he was lost and asking Robert for directions.”
“I try to stop worrying but I can’t.” She sniffed, collected herself and went on. “But, here’s some juice. I know where Stormy was last night.”
“With your ranch hand, no doubt,” said Gladys with a stern look. “She should know better. So she came to visit him last night, did she? That girl sure lives up to her name. Her mother should have named her ‘Tornado.’”
“Stormy told me it’s just the nickname kids gave her in grade school because she kept the bullies away as they’d walk home from school. I didn’t think a mother would burden a child with a name like Stormy. A woman takes a long time to choose a name for her child. She wouldn’t name Stormy. It’s a name that stuck.
“A mother wants to name a child to honor a family member,” pressed on Joy Ann, “Or, she puts the child on an imaginary pedestal and give it a celebrity name, but not one which may cause problems.”
“I wanted strong names for my boys,” said Gladys.
“You did well, Gladys. Rockwell, Thayer and Stanhope are names for good men, all who are a blessing to our community. I, for one, am glad that they haven’t had to go off to work someplace else. Bet they’re out haying this morning. Larry is either doing that or working on his pole barn. He’ll come in whipped and ready for a big meal so I can’t stay long. Just wanted to tell you about last night,” and then Joy Ann launched into a romantic story of Stormy’s visit to Lance’s lodge.
Considered Gladys, “She’s a whole lot younger than we are. Today men and women carry on differently than we did when we were young. However, to forcefully chase a man, instead of encouraging him to come after her, yesterday as well as today, generally leads to no good for a woman.”
Joy Ann stared out the window recalling again the ugly man she’d seen at the store instead of hearing Gladys say, “Times change. Now this ranch hand of yours, if he keeps collecting women like he does, by the summer’s end undoubtedly there will be even more women in his life, and Stormy will end up with a broken heart.”
Joy Ann got up and threw on her coat. “Oh, Gladys, I suddenly remember. . . I know who he is!”